The dream of owning your own news & information service is the dream of almost everyone in the news business these days. Just think of it, editorial control over what you publish and control over who sponsors your service. This was the idea that a few of us former news and media people founded CyberCountry on last year. Lance Yelvington, founder of CyberCountry, is a former newsman for the ABC News affiliates in the Southeastern U. S. Covering news in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. We've made many friends from doing this, sure. But we've also come into contact with some people, we're certain, society could do better off without in general. The way CyberCountry first came into contact with one of these types of people was during FanFair '96. That's where an interesting story of crime, fooling major country stars and their fans, and ripping off many children's charities began for us here at CyberCountry.
May of 1996 was just like any other early summer for Middle Tennessee. The weather was hot and humid, and the entire Nashville area was swarming with tourists in town for FanFair and the other celebrations connected to the country music industry. People come into Nashville by the thousands hoping to get a glance at their favorite country star, maybe even get to see him/her sing one of their hits. After making several great contacts at these different record label and talent debut events, CyberCountry and its staff were preparing to get out and cover some of the major country music concerts. This can be a tremendous hassle in terms of getting press I.D., as well as setting up appointments with management and stars. But a friend of mine, Dixie Huffman, told me she had met a man named Mark Sutton that did some work with the Children's Miracle Network. According to him, he was in town to do some networking with country's talent and management. She told me he wanted to work with us so we could help out the C.M.N., while at the same time make a few dollars. She didn't give me a number for Mark. But she said he would contact me when he got back to Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. About 4 days passed, and sure enough, Mark called the 'Country. He told me he wanted a web page to promote an upcoming 'Everything Country' Auction coming up at the end of the year. He also wanted a poster designed to promote the upcoming concert. We set a price for doing the page design, promotion and poster design. The basic rate for the page on our connection through AT&T was $420.00 per month. He agreed to this, so we set out to do the design work. Strangely enough, he said he didn't want any sort of specific time on the poster. He also changed his email address from email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org in a rather hurried fashion. I found out later he was also using email@example.com out of Chester, Illinois. This was my first red flag. But seeing as I perceived him to be a busy entrepreneurial type trying to help out some kind of charity, I didn't give it a second thought.
Our first errand for Mark came when I was told I needed to pick up some posters (4) for him at the Opryland Hotel. He said the regular person that usually does it, Sally Gerhard (an alias, since she doesn't want to be known) that works with the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital didn't have time to pick them up herself. I took the time to go over to the Opryland Hotel and chase down the posters. After about 45 minutes, I met with country legend Merle Haggard to have him sign the 4 posters for the Children's Miracle Network. Mr. Haggard signed the posters and stated after shaking my hand, "I really appreciate what y'all are doing for the kids." If that wasn't inspiration for continuing a worthy cause, I don't know what is.
Further valuable contacts were made all along the way. CyberCountry seemed to be doing good work, while at the same time making valuable country music contacts. Probably the most amazing thing was the chance Mark said he would give me to get press I.D. For Countryfest '96 in Atlanta, the weekend before the Olympics. He said he wanted us to go down there with a press release about what the 'Everything Country' Auction was, and how CyberCountry was working with him. It was around this time the second red flag went up about Mark. Mark consistently misspelled relatively simple words in his email to CyberCountry. We found this really, really weird, since he had told us he was a writer for some of the suburban newspapers in the St. Louis, MO area. The CyberCountry staff discussed the possibility of going to Countryfest, and decided to send me down to Atlanta. CyberCountry's travel budget is tight, very tight! This did, however, seem to be a good chance to do something good for us and for the C.M.N., Mark's group. After spending around $70 on room & food in Chattanooga, TN the night before the event, I went to Countryfest. Upon arriving, there was a bit of grumbling from the concert management people about my I.D., and how we were connected to the C.M.N. This seemed to get cleared up when I explained I was doing it as a part of our promo contract. Afterward, I made contact with some of my friends from the Fruit of the Loom Home Office in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I got my master's degree from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, so I know quite a few of the corporate communication staff at Fruit of the Loom. They had told me getting press I.D. for Countryfest was pretty easy since this was the first year for this event. I shrugged this off and didn't think about it again. At least not for a few more months. Countryfest gave me the chance to see a lot of people I hadn't seen for quite a while. One of my friends from SJS Entertainment, Linda Fuller, said she knew of the C.M.N. but had never heard of Mark. The event went off without a hitch, and I made my way back to Nashville with a story in mind and great contacts made.
The next task Mr. Sutton had set out for me and the rest of the CyberCountry staff was to get the signatures of Dwight Yoakum (in concert in Nashville) and Buck Owens. Dwight wasn't a problem. I dropped off the posters backstage at Starwood to one of his assistants. Evidently, Mark called backstage directly at Starwood and was making a borderline nuisance out of himself while they were trying to get the show ready. He did, however, tell me to tell them the posters were being signed for the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital (see email below):
>Dwights road manager is JOHN YOUNG might personally appeal to him by
>mentioning Vanderbilt Radiology Stars This Ellen Citron must NOT WANT
>to get back a hold of me so lay off her only as a lst resort if things dont
>get through to John Susan Niles might also be there from publicity the
Notice the grammatical errors and the misspelling. All the emails he sent to CyberCountry were like this. Rambling rants with some sort of loosely framed idea at their base. The posters did make it there, though, and I was satisfied that I was helping charity. Getting Buck Owens signature, I knew, would be a major headache. For one reason, he's in Bakersfield, California most of the time. For another, his management team at McFadden & Associates is fairly rigid on who Buck comes into contact with from the media. This is where I met a very nice office manager named Alicia Strother. Even though she was a bit bothered by Mark and his urgent requests for Buck's sig, being a mother she was more than understanding about helping the Children's Miracle Network.
Between appointments, I did manage to get Alan Jackson's signature on the posters from my friends at Chip Peay Entertainment. They were very nice. When Gary Overton managed Alan, I and the rest of the CyberCountry staff spoke to him about doing 'net work for Alan. They were very encouraging and, with their inspiration and support, we started CyberCountry. So they were more than glad to help us and help out the C.M.N.
When Mark found out I was an alumni of Western Kentucky University, he asked me if I would be willing to go to the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville to meet stars like George Strait and acts like Brooks & Dunn. Mark stated my passes would be waiting at the side entrance to the Kentucky Fair at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. Upon remembering my incident at Countryfest, I decided to double check with the management people of the different country acts that would be at the park. None of them had my name on any pass list. I then checked with the park management office. They didn't have my name on any list and had no idea who Mark Sutton was. This was my first definite indication something wasn't right about Mark Sutton. Right after this, we also started asking for our contracts and cash, which he had told us time and again were on their way.
Early September came and Mark started to ask urgently for certain stars photos. He stated in email that there was a definite offer of quite a bit of cash for the completed posters. I wondered why he was bidding the posters out now if he was holding an auction later in the year. But he had the promo and management folks from Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton (where I know several people), the Judd House (Naomi & Wynonna) calling our office as his official contact here in Nashville. I didn't take the time I should have to look into this guy's background.
The Judd House was my next signature task. The folks at the Judd House were very nice. But they, like every other performer in Nashville, can't get to every signature when they're asked. Again, Mark evidently went out of his way to go after the Judd's sigs. He managed to talk to the Judd's management assistant innumerable times. But this wasn't the only office he was harassing, as you can see through this email excerpt:
>Did <Judd's assistant> mentioned that we talked I say about 2 pm today and that >I arranged something similar with her? At the time your name didnt
>ring any bells but I got the fax number out in LA from her daughter
>and will make sure that she gets the details. WIthout telling them
>that the posters where in Nashville, I want you to go buy Bob Doyle
>and show Karen Byrd the posters (tell her they are being FEDEXED
>around so much that you didnt realize they would be available to
>Brooks n Dunn) They announced two shows for Garth here Im dying
>to renew a connection with that office. Gary Voories is instrumental
>and could help us with TJ MArtell if thats something your intrested
>in we got to start putting ourselves in line to attend the events.
>Give me your thoughts mine are somewhat scattered now.
>so be extra nice to him
In the true rambling (and misspelled) fashion his emails were known to show, Mark evidently wanted us to start sucking up to some of these country music management types to benefit the Children's Miracle Network. To me, this didn't seem like it was altogether above board. I mean, how many times have you seen a person working with some of the other reputable charities doing something blatantly unethical? Not many, since such behavior is a green light to law enforcement officials to go in and investigate the offending parties.
In his push to get in contact with Garth Brooks' and Brooks & Dunn's management and promotion people, he wanted me to show the posters to Gary Voorhies (GB Management) and Bob Doyle (B&D). Anyone in the industry here will tell you these guys don't have the time to drop everything to take a look at something someone has brought by for Garth or Kix or Ronnie to take a look at and sign. By this time, everyone at the 'Country was at his or her wits end to figure out a way to get out of the contract with this guy, while at the same time getting our money back. It was at this time Mark asked us to go by the office of Larry Smith of Performance Guide to get a catalog of the stars, management and the different venues in the U.S. and Canada. I did this, and started to figure out how Mark was able to get in touch with some of the hardest people to reach in country music.
On the 19th if September, Mark wrote he was having some trouble with one of his old sister's-in-law in court. He said he had won a $10, 000 judgement against her for something he wasn't very clear about to me. This, I believed, was probably one of the reasons Mark was being so difficult to understand in his email. Two weeks passed, and we heard from Mark again about going to some of the country celebrity events connected with the Country Music Awards. This is when the wheels started to come off of the little wagon for our friend, Mark Sutton.
The first Saturday of the T.J. Martell Celebrity events surrounding CMA Week was the Celebrity Tennis Tournament at Vanderbilt University. Since I still do work at Vandy on a consulting basis, I was more than glad to carry the flag there for the C.M.N. I got the chance to speak to several really great people, not the least of which were Helen Darling and Radney Foster. Both of these people were very gracious and were glad to devote their celebrity to benefit the T.J. Martell Foundation. I managed to get a couple of good stories at Vandy and went home expecting to go to the celebrity golf game the next day. Upon arriving at the Hermitage Golf Course, I was told my press credentials were no good due to the fact I was with the Children's Miracle Network. This confounded me in that I thought I was supposed to represent the C.M.N. while I did my work for CyberCountry. I told Mark what happened and he shrugged it off as jealousy on their part. My partner and I, however, thought this little incident deserved a bit more investigation, since the only time my press credentials were ever denied before was when I was asked to cover a KKK rally years ago. I didn't see where the Country Music Association and the KKK could have similar requirements for press credentialing.
Monday began with me getting on the phone to the only contact name I had with regard to the posters I was carrying around, a Ms. Sally Gerhard from Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. I called her and identified myself as Lance Yelvington with CyberCountry. I then told her I was working with a guy by the name of Mark Sutton with the Children's Miracle Network. I asked her what she could tell me about this guy. She became very quiet and a little hesitant. She then said, "You do know that name's an alias, right?" This really caught me off guard.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
She said, "His real name is Larry Geiler. I met him earlier this year at the Celebrity Softball Game at Greer Stadium. He had told me he was some sort of country promotion guy. I showed up at the game with a bunch of kids in wheelchairs expecting to get in the game. What I got was a flat denial of anyone's knowledge of Larry or what he was doing. He showed up later at the game ranting and raving about his place and his power. But finally the only way the kids got into the game was someone from the CMA taking up the kids' cause and letting them in."
By this time, I was completely livid. I then called the County Clerk's Office with Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri. I asked her if there was a business under the name of Mark Sutton at Five Marian Street in Ste. Genevieve. She said, with some hesitation, "No." I then asked if there was a Larry Geiler at that address. Her exact words were, "Oh my God! You need to speak to our Prosecuting Attorney!" By this time, I knew our situation was way past the point of being just 'interesting'.
After the county attorney and I spoke at length of how this alleged ripoff artist takes money from kids that really need help, I became more livid with every breath. The next question out of my mouth was, "If you know this guy is so dirty, why don't you just go bust him now?" The attorney paused and said, "Because he has a twin brother that runs defense for him. We can't ever figure out how to serve an arrest warrant on the guy." But since both have criminal records, I was really curious as to why they just didn't arrest both of them, or just throw the entire clan under a swift moving St. Louis Metro Bus. The questions kept coming into my mind though, how can someone from any kind of background, good or bad, determine it's okay to steal from children in the hospital? Moreover, how can anyone think stealing from people trying to help these same children is good? Your answer to these two questions is probably the same as ours here at CyberCountry: there's no way anyone can justify this kind of behavior. That night, an investigative reporter by the name of Scott Couch from the CBS affiliate here, WTVF (Channel Five), did a story on the scam Mark/Larry was running.
The Country Music Association Awards were the night after I spoke to the folks in Ste. Genevieve. I was getting a lot of desperate email messages from Larry still posing as Mark Sutton with regard to getting as many country music star signatures for him, as well as donated items from the same country stars, as I could. He had no clue we were now sending his email directly to the boys & girls in blue, who were now giving us permission to mess with his head as much as we wanted. Telling a bunch of people with broadcast news experience to 'mess with someone's head' with little or no fear of retribution is a lot like giving someone a license to kill!
About a week and a half passed when the phone rang again with a call for us from the 'Show-Me' State. At the other end of the line on this occasion was the voice of a gentleman that sounded like he might have some hope of finally getting a bad guy off the streets. Detective Brian Clubb of the Ste. Genevieve, Missouri Police Department explained that an investigation into what Larry Geiler and some of his relatives had been allegedly doing posing as fake charities had been going on for quite some time. Since all the crimes allegedly committed by Larry and the Geiler clan related to country music in some way, he was a bit confused as to why someone from Nashville hadn't come forward to press charges against them long before now. Evidently, CyberCountry was the first country music organization angry enough to push the issue further. The conversation lasted for a little more than 20 minutes when Brian determined he needed to come to Nashville to talk to us and a few other country music people.
In order to get more evidence against what I figured might be a very twisted criminal case, I made use of my many international contacts that work in law enforcement. Before you get overly impressed with the sound of that, think how easy talking to someone using the 'net is. Also think of how many people like country music. Several thousand police officers, as we have found out here, fit into that category quite nicely. I called a friend, Chuck Denney, who is the Communication Director of the Knox County, Tennessee Sheriff's Office in Knoxville, TN. I asked him if he would be able to find out some more information about our friend, Mark Sutton, aka Larry Geiler. Since Chuck's the father of a really cool little kid by the name of Sam, he really took this cause to heart and emailed the guy. The reply he got back was tentative, but Mark definitely held out the possibility of having Chuck do some footwork for him in the Knoxville and Pigeon Forge areas. I also had friends that are members of the police forces of Montgomery, AL, Atlanta Metro, Memphis, Lexington Urban/County, Louisville, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Nashville Metro email Larry to determine what he was telling other people
In a week's time, Brian and one of the administrators for the Ste Genevieve Police Department, Asst. Chief Ralph Ogden, came to the Music City to get the dirt on this alleged scam artist. I went to meet Brian and Ralph at the office of McFadden and Associates, manager of Buck Owens and several other country music artists. The office manager there, Alicia, had been severely harassed by Larry posing as Mark Sutton for the past two months prior to the Country Music Association Awards ceremonies trying to get the signature of Buck on his precious posters. Finding out the truth about Mark/Larry got her and one of her bosses, Ms. Jo McFadden, just as angry as we were. An hour long conversation with Jo and Alicia made Brian and Ralph realize there was no way they were going to be able to cover all the folks on Music Row and in the music industry that had an axe to grind with the Geiler gang. Brian looked up from his notes from Alicia and Jo and said, "We're going to have to come back here to get all the information."
Six days went by and Brian and Ralph (the Assistant Chief) came back to the lovely area south of Music City known as Franklin, Tennessee where the offices of CyberCountry are located. Franklin is a lovely town with little or no crime, which is one of the reasons we got involved in this criminal investigation; we had never done anything like this before. So, while some of us here at CyberCountry had visions of Miami Vice's Ricardo Tubbs and Sonny Crockett coming out of the woodwork to arrest the Geiler gang for smuggling drugs to unsuspecting kids just outside of school, Ralph and Brian let us know real quick that this kind of crime, the scam, is tough to prosecute because you have to have a lot of evidence to prosecute the accused. I figured with as many people as I had talked to already, the evidence would be pretty easy to come by once we got started talking to the people on the 'Row.
Wednesday morning came and found us in the New York Bagel Company on 21st Avenue South. It seemed like a pretty good place to set out our pregame plans before we started talking to the other people hit by Mark/Larry. Our first stop after breakfast was Vanderbilt University Children's Hospital. Sally Gerhard, coordinator of some of the activities for the kids with chronic or life threatening illnesses at Vanderbilt, met us at her office door with a smile and a warning that, "I don't know how much help I'll be, since I don't know how much I remember." Brian gave her a pen in the conference room at the hospital, and she began to write. She and I spoke intermittently about our experiences with Mark/Larry during her story writing session. Sally also had this to say about Mark/Larry's performance at the Celebrity Softball game during FanFair '96;
"Larry had contacted me to arrange tickets and phot.autograph opportunities for the children to attend the Sofball game. When we arrived with the children, he went to get the tickets. There was a long delay, and finally I went down to the Press entrance to see what was going on and to get the tickets. There I was told that they had a problem with Mark Sutton ( I of course did not know who they were talking about because I knew him as Larry) and that the tickets had been pulled. I asked to speak with someone in charge who told me he was bad news, to break off any association with him and that she would get us tickets for the children. I went to the Softball game with pediatric patients, and later he was allowed in with his press credentials. Later he tried to explain the situation as a personal issue between him and a friend of the lady in charge."
We found many of the same things happened to each of us during our experience with Mark/Larry that should have given us a definite clue as to what he had up his sleeve. Just like many other people though, we were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because he claimed to be a reputable charity. Two hours passed, and Sally was still going strong writing about her experiences with Mark/Larry. Toward the end of her friendly interrogation by Brian and Ralph, Brian asked her if she had ever seen what Mark/Larry looked like. She said she had seen him before at the celebrity softball game during FanFair. But I admitted I hadn't had any kind of contact with Mark/Larry other than the phone and email. Smiling, Brian pulled from his case a picture of Larry. Upon seeing this, I knew no reputable, registered charity in the world would hire this guy to do public relations development for them.
After thanking Sally for her help, we next went back to the office of McFadden & Associates to get a statement from a woman that was a really good friend by now, Ms. Alicia Strother. She was glad to see us again, because by now we had become pretty good friends connected by the telephone. She was busy, so we told her we would be back later that afternoon to pick up her statement. Alicia smiled and said, "That's great! I'll have it ready when you get back."
Evidently, Mark/Larry hadn't made a habit of just bugging some country music notables. He bugged everybody on Music Row. Our next stop was the management office of Tracy Lawrence. One of Tracy's publicists gave us detailed information about how their office was repeatedly called by Mark/Larry trying to get free donated items for his fake charity. Statements were taken there, and we were off to our next stop, the offices of GB Management.
Garth Brooks is not a man with a lot of free time. This is understandable when you take a look at his concert schedule, as well as his devotion to his family and his fans. The lack of free time also applies to his staff. So, it was surprising to all of us that we managed to get a few minutes with Karen Brooks and Gary Voorhees, two of Garth's best and brightest from his management team. Karen began to tell us of how Mark/Larry had tried to get her to send items to Mark/Larry for his alleged charity. She also described how Mark/Larry had harassed her in trying to get Garth's signature on the posters which still remained in Nashville. Gary was intrigued by what Mark/Larry tried to do with all these different country stars. But unfortunately he didn't appear to be surprised by the criminal lengths this alleged scam artist was going to in order to complete his evil hidden agenda. Statements were taken here, and we left after a hearty 'thank you' to both Karen and Gary was given. We then had to break for lunch at the International House of Pancakes at the end of 21st Avenue South. You wouldn't believe how many important entertainment decisions in Nashville are made over a plate pancakes. But after experiencing the cuisine of IHOP, we made our way back to Music Row to get Alicia's statement at McFadden. This is where the investigation took an interesting turn.
Alicia handed the statement over to Brian with a smile and the assurance from her office that if there was anything else needed to help put this guy away, just let her know. We walked out the door just as the phone was ringing. We weren't 10 steps away from McFadden when the door there flew open and Alicia was standing there almost frantic, "He's on the phone right now!!!" We ran back inside her office. She took the phone off hold and asked, "Who is this? You were holding for who sir?"
A voice at the other end of the line responded, "This is Mark Sutton from Children's Miracle Net. Did you just put me on speaker?"
Alicia responded, "Yes sir. I'm at the other end of my desk doing work. You said something about the posters you sent us? They're in transit right now."
"Do you think they still have them at the radio station there in Bakersville, California?", the voice at the other end asked. Mark/Larry never did understand that if you're trying to rip off country fans and stars, you had better know the proper names of the signature tunes of the stars. 'Bakersville' was what Mark/Larry called the Buck Owens/Dwight Yoakum song 'Bakersfield'.
"Sir, all I can tell you is that they're still in transit," is how Alicia replied.
In a hesitant voice, Mark/Larry said, "Oh, okay. Thank you."
At the end of the conversation, Brian asked Alicia, "Did you recognize that voice?" With no hesitation, she said, "Yup." Brian then looked at me and asked me, "Did you?" I knew with no doubt that the voice at the other end of the phone was the same one that decided to ripoff my company for $5000.00. I let Brian know, "I sure did!"
Brian and Ralph believed they had the start of getting everything they needed to prosecute Larry Geiler for pretending to be something he wasn't, a charity. I felt like I was able to take a little bit of satisfaction out of knowing I was doing something good. Brian warned me though, "This kind of thing might take a while, because we're also going to have to deal with the jurisdictions of Illinois and Tennessee." Evidently, the phone numbers Mark/Larry gave me of (618)826-2527 and (618)826-2528 were numbers in Illinois. Mark/Larry's street address was in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri at 5 Marian Street. To make the issue a little bit more cloudy, Mark had email addresses at firstname.lastname@example.org (Carbondale, IL) and another one at email@example.com. Also, phone calls were always made to CyberCountry from phone numbers that were anonymous. Why would a reputable charity call from an anonymous telephone number? The men and women with the Williamson County Sheriff's Department (here in Franklin) stressed again and again to try not to take anonymous telephone calls (shown on computer caller I.D.) during this investigation. But after our successful day of getting evidence on the bad guy, arresting him should be no problem, right? Wrong!
After turning the posters over to the Ste. Gen police, I was pretty certain I wouldn't be hearing from Mark/Larry for a while. At least not on this side of the prison fence. I figured he would be breaking rocks with his little arms in no time at all. But Mark/Larry started writing me demanding the posters back soon, since he had the idea the posters were worth $5000 each by this time. When we were given permission to mess around with Mark/Larry's head by the police, a vote was taken by all the cowboy boot wearing geeks here at CyberCountry for how much money we should tell Mark/Larry the posters were worth. Danielle Hines, a quiet, reserved businesswoman thought we should tell him they were worth $200.00. But in the true spirit of pushing the envelope for CyberCountry, a few more of the intense geeks and I decided we should tell him they were worth $5000.00 each. I was hoping he might actually try to come down to Nashville to get the posters. I knew this wouldn't happen, since Brian had emphasized many times to me that Mark/Larry wouldn't leave his safety zone of the Missouri/Illinois area. Especially now, Mark/Larry still won't come to Nashville since the rest of the music industry is on to his scam. But the email to our office and the email threats of legal action still came into CyberCountry from Larry Geiler still using the name of Mark Sutton. After talking with our lawyer here, we were pretty confident no one in the Federal or state governments involved had changed the laws of using your real name to swear out an arrest warrant. I talked with my friends here and in Missouri about what Mark/Larry was saying. They concurred with my conclusion. In fact, we were all kind of curious as to how Mark/Larry would be able to swear out an arrest warrant. But we knew he would still keep sending us misspelled threats via email, just like these:
>Sent: 11/12/96 5:06 PM
>Received: 11/25/96 5:25 PM
>From: Mark Sutton, firstname.lastname@example.org
>To: cyberhoss, email@example.com
>I guess you probably ripping some other poor soul off and to busy
>to get me. On behalf of all those people I hope that you eventually
>have to pay for everything that youve done. Money isnt everything
>and I am sorry that we ever linked up with you. That wont be happening
>around town any more as Im informing most of the agencies that your
>not anything but a con artistand are not to be trustworthy.
>Sent: 11/15/96 12:11 PM
>Received: 11/15/96 3:04 PM
>From: Mark Sutton, firstname.lastname@example.org
>To: cyberhoss, email@example.com
>I know what your trying to do to the organizaation, and Im advised to hand
>this over to our attornies and to take out a public notice disavoying
>CyberCountry and its activities. Guess you'll be digging through your
>pockets to pay legal fees that is if you don't use some of the money youve
>pocketed for selling our Posters.
Think about it boys and girls, if you're going to threaten someone, wouldn't you want to spell your threat correctly in order to generate some sort of credibility? Well, Mark/Larry's head didn't work that way. About a month had passed since Ste. Genevieve's finest had come to Nashville to conduct their investigation, and I thought it might be interesting to find out if Mark/Larry had tried to get in touch with anyone else in Nashville. Sure enough, under the aka of 'karlos' in the undernet.org IRC channel of 'countrymusic', and the dalnet IRC channel #Strait going under the name BlueSky he had tried to elicit the assistance of Gloria Darcy and her husband David. Gloria is an aspiring writer and singer, and a good one at that. But what Mark/Larry didn't know was Gloria's husband, David, is a former police officer with the city of Syracuse, New York. David told me Mark/Larry had approached him to try to get him to grab the posters. David was a little leery of Mark/Larry from the start. But he had said Mark/Larry had used the name of Larry Geiler to recruit him into his alleged scheme. A couple of conversations later, I had recruited some more combatants into Music Row's war on crime!
Something very important to point out is that the real handle of Blue-Sky (not the BlueSky used by Larry) is used by a very fine upstanding young man named Mike Santos, who lives in the Great State of Texas. Isn't it just like a fake, though, to try and take advantage of the upstanding by posing as an honest person? That's the case here.
Not four days had passed when I got a phone call from one of the managers of Wynonna and Naomi Judd. She said she had been called repeatedly by Mark Sutton (Larry) trying to get her to donate stuff to his alleged scam. She said she had spoken with the police in Missouri, as well as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and pledged her support in whatever way they could help the investigation.
With the ease it seemed Mark/Larry was moving around the 'net to complete these alleged dark deeds against kids, I wondered if he had approached anyone at any of the other entertainment events coming up for the holidays. My first instinct was to call the people at the CMA. But Mark/Larry had said something about getting Gloria press I.D for the Vince Gill Celebrity Basketball Tourney. I called the Music Business Office at Belmont University and spoke with a gentleman by the name of Bob Mulloy. Mr. Mulloy runs the Mike Curb School of Music Business, and obviously does a superb job in helping the school grow while giving his students a good base of knowledge for the real world. The first time I spoke with Bob, he denied having been approached by Mark/Larry. Ten minutes after our first conversation, Bob called me back saying Mark/Larry had tried to get press I.D. through one of his students there, Lindsay. Lindsay said Mark/Larry had called her, as well as some of the other students in the Music Business office using several different names. But he never tried to vary his voice. The night of the Vince Gill Tourney, Bob came up to me and told me Mark/Larry had tried to call his office several more times after our conversation trying to get into the tourney, as well as the auction and concert to follow the tournament. Bob also said he had a conference call with the police in Ste. Genevieve during a conversation with Mark/Larry. Mark/Larry had left some phone numbers where he could be reached. All the folks on the line recognized Larry Geiler's voice once the conversation started. It looked like the arrest was going to take place soon.
Assistant Chief of Police Ralph Ogden phoned me here at CyberCountry to tell me it looked as if Larry Geiler was going to be arrested before the Thanksgiving holiday. I could tell this was pretty ambitious, since we were just a few days away from Thanksgiving. To be honest, it really didn't matter to me when the arrest was going to take place, just as long as when they got him it was certain. Thanksgiving came and went, and still no arrest was made. This turned out to be a good thing, because other police departments in Illinois were finding out Larry had been allegedly ripping off folks in Illinois.
Larry was apprehended the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. That same night, his twin brother T. Gerald Geiler called me several times posing as a collection agent for the posters. He also called and harassed my parents several times at their home well into the evening. A misdemeanor warrant was put out for their arrest here in Tennessee as well. Larry's mom, June also called our office. But the one time she called here and introduced herself, I had to cut her off and say, "I can't talk to you. You know that!" The Sheriff's Department here and the police in Ste. Gen did get a kick out of that. But the harassment from June wasn't limited to our office. She also called our friend Sally at Vanderbilt, telling her, "If you have any kind of heart, you won't prosecute my son!" Sally was in the same frame of mind I was in after all of this, which was if this guy rips off sick kids, it would seem like our heart if pretty much in the right place. T. Gerald and June's harassment of certain Vanderbilt Hospital employees became so bad that the head of Vanderbilt's Security, Captain Pat Cunningham, and Vanderbilt University's Legal Office had to call the Geilers and tell them to not contact anyone connected with this case at all, whatsoever. I still work on a consulting basis with Vanderbilt, so I fall into that category as well. Larry and his mom started saying they were with some sort of charity called, 'Children with Hope'. A check for a non-profit called 'Children with Hope' in Missouri came up empty. One of Larry's female cohorts called CyberCountry's office on Saturday, the 14th of December posing as a charity from Indiana called 'The Wishing Well'. Again, this came from an anonymous number, and she became very defensive when pressed for a return number so I could call her back. Needless to say, the people that work with the state of Indiana had no record of a non-profit charity by the name of the Wishing Well. At this point, Larry and his gang have made his bail, and are continuing their alleged scam on other defenseless kids.
The most important thing we've learned from all of this here at CyberCountry is always do the extra footwork needed to make sure your business doesn't make a wrong turn with a potentially shady client. We've also found that it's good to have your heart in the right place, as long as it doesn't get in the way of good decisions. By the way, since all of us here thought we were getting all these signatures for the Children's Miracle Network, they've already been assured they are getting these signed posters once the investigation is over. Good endings are hard to come by, and even though it might seem like this story has reached its conclusion, this is a continuing investigation. According to investigators, Larry has even made contact with several people in unaware of his history in places like Houston, Texas and Minnesota. The owners of Midwest.Net are equally concerned about the Geiler clan's alleged contined harassment of other good-hearted people using the internet, and they have pledged a concerted effort on their part for preventing any kind of use of their internet service by this gang to con unsuspecting people. If you think you've made contact with this guy, let us at CyberCountry and your local police department know. Needless to say, we can't afford to let alleged con artists take money from defenseless kids using the cover of country music. But the folks in the country music community are going out of their way to put an end to this scam.